Monsoon-A-Day ‘Tales Of Beatrix Potter’ (1971)

Welcome to Monsoon-a-day.
Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.

Day 89


“My dear Noel, I don’t know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits whose names were – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail – and Peter. They lived with their mother in a sand bank under the root of a big fir tree…”

Before Winnie-the-Pooh or Stuart Little, there was Peter Rabbit. Before J.K Rowling made and this is an actual quote “more money than Scrooge McDuck“, Beatrix Potter had permanent exhibitions made of her work. Hell, there are entire museums dedicated solely to commemorate her legacy.

There are few authors that have achieved the level of success and adoration she has and even fewer have created characters that have lived in the public consciousness for as long. There is a film adaptation (albeit a terrible looking one) of Peter Rabbit coming out this year. That’s a remarkably long life for a character that is almost 120 years old.

But the 2018 live action adaptation wasn’t the first time the Rabbit has made it to the big screen. Walt Disney tried to get the rights all the way back in 1936 but Potter flatly refused. Shocking, I know. There are no details of his initial pitch but I believe it’s safe to assume it would’ve been animated. Potter didn’t like whatever he was selling but I wonder what she would’ve thought of the 1971 adaptation.

I’m not the most knowledgeable of the many adventures of Peter Rabbit but from what I can tell, all the stories involve him stealing carrots and then eating the stolen carrots. Much like Winnie-the-Pooh’s honey stealing antics, the stories seem to be uncomplicated and fun.

A rabbit stealing carrots pursued by a farmer. Sounds like a basic jumping off point with enough wiggle room to add some creative flourishes here and there. You can even see the film playing in your head if you close your eyes. It could be a lighthearted cross between the Brier Rabbit segment from Song of the South and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The possibilities are endless.

Which begs the question “who the fuck thought this was the best material to adapt into a ballet?”

I have it on good authority that children hate the ballet. I don’t give a good goddamn if it’s the Avengers teaming up with the Transformers to fight the Justice League, the minute a dancer starts tip toeing around the stage, they’re done. It ranks right below the opera on the list of things only high society snobs enjoy. It’s the artistic equivalent of watching an issue of the New Yorker drink brandy with a tin of caviar.

Taking a beloved children’s property and adapting it into a medium they will most certainly loathe is diabolical. It’s alienating the audience that loves the source material and is considered too low brow for the top hat wearing art snobs.

Who was the demographic they were trying to hit, Rich uncle Pennybags’s infant nephew? I hesitant to call this a misfire because, although it appeals to no one, it’s exceptionally well made. The dancing is phenomenal and the animal costumes are on point. It is a tad too long (because it’s the fucking ballet) but they do enough to keep it from becoming monotonous.

Tales of Beatrix Potter is an interesting film that’s for die hard fans of the source material or for lovers of ballet only.

Or any child you hate for no particular reason.